The European Environment Agency (EEA) is one of the first European Union agencies to offer Web mapping services. EEA sees this service as an information product and a way to promote its message of sustainable environments. Its Shared Environmental Information System (SEIS) supports an initiative that helps environment data providers share methodologies, ideas, standards, and technologies. SEIS is a means for exchanging data from local to global levels. ArcGIS is used as an important component to build SEIS.
EEA's GIS team has been devising a social networking system to improve base data and reduce the complexity that surrounds data sharing, but this effort is not without challenges. Data gathering and sharing differ among nations. Community members have varying platforms and a variety of data centers. EEA's solution is to create templates that make it easier to collect data from thematic areas, such as air, water, biodiversity, lands, and climate change. EEA is using ArcGIS Server to accommodate different data types.
Another challenge for the Web map service provider has been to match capacity to demand. Initially, EEA's map service platform was built using ArcIMS to deploy 100 percent of the Internet mapping software's functionality. EEA's GIS team is migrating map services to ArcGIS Server. This move has improved the system's stability.
"ArcGIS Server is very stable," notes EEA's project officer of geospatial developments, Jan Bliki. "It allows us to isolate our services in a well-defined way. A poorly behaving map service won't bring down the rest of the infrastructure."
The GIS shop consists of three in-house people and some GIS consultants. EEA has 100 map applications running more than 65 map services. In the past, this was very difficult to manage, and the team often worried that the servers would go down when demand was high. After the migration to ArcGIS Server, the service had no single crashes or major problems. Bliki explains, "One day, we had a huge peak of demand. In just four hours, 35,000 visitors hit one map service. That is about two million map requests. The system worked through it without any problem. We could have easily withstood 50,000 visitors and been fine."
ArcGIS Online is an important piece of EEA's infrastructure. Esri is working with EEA to discuss and define environmental layers to enter into the community basemap. EEA receives huge amounts of data on a weekly basis. Esri technology will make it possible for European citizens to access that data. Community members can feed their data into a data template and post it on ArcGIS Online.
"We find that ArcGIS Online is a new way to promote map services and give developers mashup capabilities they never had before," Bliki says. "It is a place where our members and anybody else can share data and compare environmental messages with each other. Map services as a product for the public rather than for developers is a new way of thinking but will totally change the reusability of our information."
Because ArcGIS Server is based on open geospatial and IT standards, EEA can serve data to anybody. "Most of the other GIS products don't provide that," notes Bliki. "We serve a full packet for open source, Google, Bing Maps, and Esri ArcGIS products. Once we set up the service, it is very easy to serve it to everybody." EEA SEIS users can consume data on Web browsers, mobile devices, and desktop systems.
"We have already moved most of our services from ArcIMS to ArcGIS Server," continues Bliki. "The applications were a bit harder to move over because we had to establish the best approach. Now that we have it set up, we can make map services available on the Internet in a few days rather than what used to be weeks."
The GIS team considers the whole design process to be faster and much more dynamic when they use ArcGIS Server," says Bliki. "Previously I had to ask a developer to help with high-level tasks. Now I can divide these tasks easier between cartographers, database managers, and developers and create very stable and reliable service products."
Many people use EEA's integrated spatial information system to access relevant themes and products. They can easily search and view data and download functions that help them with analysis and policy making. "EEA's Web site (discomap.eea.europa.eu) makes it possible for people to reuse our map services together with their own data," concludes Bliki. "We believe that the new approach of ArcGIS Online and map services seen as a product to everyone is going to change the international approach of serving environmental data."
For more information, contact Guenther Pichler, Esri (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org).